Oct 272014
 
Title: Fury
Director: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt,
Logan Lerman,
Shia LaBeouf,
Jon Bernthal,
Michael Pena.
Genre: War/Drama/Action
Runtime: 2 Hours 14 mins
Music: Steven Price
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Release Date: USA: October 17 2014
UK: October 22 2014
See If You Like: Saving Private Ryan,
Band of Brothers,
The Pacific

Coming from Training Day writer/End of Watch director David Ayer, Fury is a bleakly brilliant World War 2 movie following a downtrodden US tank crew through their part in the final push through Germany, and comes to cinemas as not only a sure-fire awards contender, but with all the promise of being the next Saving Private Ryan.

While it may not fully capture the emotions, ethical quandaries, and sheer shock value which came from a first viewing of Saving Private Ryan (a movie which undeniably changed the landscape, and set the benchmark, for every single WWII movie/TV show to follow), Fury is also an undeniably brilliant movie, and one which succeeds in just about everything it tries to accomplish.

Starring Brad Pitt (Inglorious Basterds/World War Z) as world-weary tank commander Wardaddy, and Michael Pena (End of Watch), Jon Bernthal (The Wolf Of Wall Street/The Walking Dead), and Shia LaBeouf (Lawless) as the three long-standing members of Wardaddy’s crew, Fury follows the journey undertaken by the newest addition to the crew; assistant driver Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman, Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief); as he goes from clueless and ethic-filled newbie to grizzled soldier (a transformation which is well delivered and believable, though doesn’t feel wholly realised upon Fury’s conclusion), as the tank rolls ever closer to Berlin.

Pacing is perfect, as aside from one brief pitstop after conquering a small town, the film rolls along with slow yet continuous momentum (mirroring the tanks it features so prominently), trudging ever closer to the inevitable siege/showdown which forms the crux of the movie’s action; the nigh-on impossible defence of a crucial crossroads, which will see the lone tank (stranded, thanks to busted tracks) and its crew attempting to halt the advance of over 300, heavily armed, German SS troops.

 

 

Direction and cinematography are also excellent, and Fury is not only framed brilliantly throughout but filled with impressive performances bolstered by a script which delivers superb characterisation (even if said characters can appear somewhat cliched); Pitt is fantastic, charismatic, and exceptionally powerful in his presence-filled performance, as he epitomises the father-figure/battle-hardened leader his men wouldn’t hesitate to follow to death or glory. He’s strong, he’s got a clear goal, and has a backstory which thankfully isn’t fully diverged but leaves some mystery to his character and shows through in glimpses of humanity, yet at the same time he’s no Tom Hanks from Ryan; Pitt can be a nasty son-of-a-bitch, and knows not only what men can do, but what needs to be done in order to win the war, and has no qualms about killing whatsoever.

Bernthal’s character is a touch too far in the same direction; being compared in the film to a wild animal, he’s a truly uneducated hick who puts on the hard-man persona, and seems to have had almost all traces of humanity beaten out of him during his time in the war (yet Jon plays his rather loathsome character to tense perfection); Shia LaBeouf (a rather reprehensible actor at the best of times) is acceptable as the religious member of the group, Michael Pena is surprisingly likeable, and delivers a solid showing, as the most believable member of the group and the standard soldier who’s there to do his job, takes small pleasures where he can, yet is also somewhat world-weary, beaten-down, and accepts his mission as a killer, and Logan Lerman is completely believable as the greenhorn who simply doesn’t belong with such a hardened crew, yet becomes infinitely affected by the things he has to see and do during the course of the war.

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Fury’s action sequences are great as well, as during their journey towards the infamous crossroads battle, and the quieter, character-building, moments in between, the crew encounter resistance at several points, and each encounter not only feels different (from a close-quarters town assault, to infantry rescue, tank battle, and eventual siege), but effectively amps-up the tension. One tank battle in particular (where three US tanks take on a far superior German Tiger) is amazingly tense, realistic, and filled with dread.

Though the heavy use of tracer rounds can be a little distracting at times; a sad fact as the use of tracer rounds is actually completely realistic but simply not seen in many WWII films, and so becomes somewhat reminiscent of a Star Wars laser battle (particularly as the US and German armies helpfully use red and green tracers respectively); there are one or two instances of editing imperfection, a feeling that the German battalion attempting to take the crossroads are far and a way less effective than they should’ve been (following the initial surprise attack of the tank members, surely the Pitt-crew should’ve been easy pickings?), and a sense that Fury doesn’t really bring anything new to the table; it’s powerful, it’s brilliant, and exceptionally tense in places, but lacks the moral questions presented by Saving Private Ryan, and the game-changing nature of Spielberg’s epic.

That said, Fury doing away with hope is actually a fantastic move; it doesn’t gloss over the horrors of war, nor question the morality of anything; these soldiers are there to do a job. It’s gruesome, it’s horrible, and it’s guaranteed to change even the most green and ethically sound men who experience it (something brilliantly realised with Norman’s journey). While there’s an undeniable beauty to some of the camerawork, it also doesn’t paint war as anything but dirty, and horrific, and does a fantastic job of capturing the claustrophobic nature of the inside of a WWII tank. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely powerful, supremely realistic, and a true must watch; bleak but brilliant, Fury is the best World War II movie for 15 years.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

Movie ratings 9-10